Friday, April 29, 2016
The Spring Plant Sale at Bartram’s Garden runs three days this weekend, with a preview for members tonight from 4-7 PM and Saturday and Sunday 10 AM to 4 PM. Take advantage of horticulturists on hand for questions and the beautiful backdrop of the country’s oldest botanic garden with its newly restored John Bartram House.
If you can’t get enough new plants for your garden or patio pots, the Physic House Plant Sale will run Friday to Sunday from 10 AM to 6 PM. All proceeds support PhilaLandmarks historical, educational, and cultural programming.
Who can forget that Sunday is the opening day of the Headhouse Farmers’ Market? Live music and a photo booth will accompany the regular farmers and mobile food vendors from 10 AM to 2 PM.
Learning from DiBruno’s Emilio Mignucci
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
As mentioned before, we were fortunate enough to attend a class on local cheeses at the Farm and Food Fest on Sunday. Emilio was very patient and informative as he explained different aspects of the cheesemaking process as well as his sensory experience tasting these cheeses. Below are my notes on the cheeses and the local wine I might enjoy with it. In keeping with the DiBruno Brothers theme of this post, I’ve adapted wine pairings suggestions from Tenaya Darlington’s House of Cheese. (Tenaya was also speaking at the Farm and Food Fest on Sunday, by the way.)
First up was Hummingbird from the Farm at Doe Run. This particular cheese is equal parts sheep and cow milk for part of the year. Similar to Robioloa in style, it was both creamy and earthy. This cheese would go well with a glass of Galen Glen Gewurtztraminer, the tropical fruit and floral nose should play nicely off this creamy cheese.
Next, was Willow, also from the Farm at Doe Run. This cheese is equal parts sheep, cow, and goat’s milk. The goat’s milk in this one imparted a greater tanginess. I immediately pictured eating this cheese with a nice, fresh summer salad, so I would pick a glass of Amalthea Rose (my favorite local rose last year).
The third cheese was already a favorite of mine, Birchrun Blue from Birchrun Hills Farm. Emilio told an interesting story of tasting Birchrun cheese years ago and though they were still refining their technique, it was immediately obvious to Emilio that they were working with quality milk. His description of this cheese was particularly lucid: unlike many blue cheeses, this does not overpower you with black pepper; there is an earthy, mushroom component, but also an herbal quality to it. Emilio explained it as feeling the “botanicals” on the sides of his tongue. While Darlington suggests a Sauternes for some blues, I would like to try it with Unionville Chardonnay.
This was followed by another favorite from Birchrun Hills Farm, Red Cat. Emilio used this cheese to explain the difficulties of rind development, by way of complimenting this one. Darlington suggests Pinot Noir or Burgundy, but I would be inclined to try either a Cabernet Franc from Pinnacle Ridge or a Nero D’avola from Turdo Vineyards.
The next two were complete revelations to me. I had never heard of either creamery, much less sampled their cheeses. Johny’s Clothbound Cheddar, from Alpine Heritage Creamery, was very different from other quality American cheddars. Texturally, it the crumbliness and crunch that I have never experienced in local cheddar. The flavor was equally impressive: nutty, but also with a complex sweetness that Emilio described alternately as butterscotch and tropical fruit. While this may sound like something of a contradiction, it was actually a description of the complex flavor of the cheese. Darlington suggests Bordeux for this, so why not a Bordeaux via South Jersey? One of Amalthea’s Europa series would do nicely.
Der Weichen, from Goot Essa, was a Camembert style cheese with a very earthy taste. Emilio explained how Goot Essa is moving towards a Coop model, purchasing milk from nearby, trusted growers while they refined their craft. While it may be overkill, I would love to pair this with Va La’s Mahogany, which is probably the earthiest local wine I know.
We finished the class with the Havilah from Cherry Grove Farm, another favorite. A lovely nutty flavor to this one, Emilio suggested that it would work very well as a grating cheese over pasta. This cheese I would reserve for my favorite local red: Va La’s Cedar.
Posted by Kevin on 04/13 at 06:13 PM
Pig School at Wyebrook
Friday, March 25, 2016
Having long considered Wyebrook’s meat to be some of the best in the Philadelphia area, not to mention the gorgeous setting of its market and restaurant, I wasn’t sure what more Wyebrook could do to impress me. So, while I attended the pig butchering class on Saturday, March 19th with enthusiasm, I did so only hoping it would make me a (slightly) better cook. Yes, it did that (I think), but I also came away with three more reasons to love Wyebrook.
First, at the outset of the class, owner Dean Carlson explained the farming practices. I was particularly impressed with the pasturing of their pigs and their varied diet. While the animals are fed, they are permitting to roam a great deal of the property and forage for additional food. By the time the pigs are slaughtered, they are more mature and significantly larger than the “industry standard.” These practices account for the outstanding quality of their pork.
Second, head butcher Alexi Alejandro was a gracious teacher. As he systematically butchered a side of pork (literally, one half of a pig), he explained each of the cuts as well as cooking techniques and the various terms. One of the simplest but most helpful things he emphasized was the optimal internal temperature for cooking pork (145 degrees plus resting time). This might actually prevent me from overcooking pork in the future…maybe.
Third, at the conclusion of the class was a dinner featuring the various cuts of pork. Every dish was outstanding - handmade rigatoni with pork ragu, pork pate, sausages, pork belly, and loin. I don’t know if this is a direct consequence of bringing Russet’s chef/owner Andrew Wood onboard as Executive Chef, but I would guess so. The kitchen paid as much attention to our dinner as Alexi paid to us, his students.
Wyebrook offers this and other classes (including one on charcuterie, which I am eager to attend) throughout the year. Look for announcements via their mailing list or on their website.
Posted by Kevin on 03/25 at 06:15 PM
Good Food for a Good Cause
Sunday, June 14, 2015
Today we spent a beautiful afternoon on Windy Acres Farm at a brunch sponsored by Slow Food South Jersey Shore, prepared by The Red Store Restaurant and Little Store Bakery. The brunch was both a fundraiser for Slow Food’s School Garden program, in which they plan to offer grants to area schools, and the launch of Cape May Salt company. More on both Windy Acres and Cape May Salt Company in later posts, but the brunch was as inventive and delicious as you’d expect from Lucas Manteca.
Between the locally sourced meats and fish, cheeses from Birchrun Hills Farm, wines on offer from Hawk Haven Winery and vegetables grown either on Windy Acres or Fincas Del Mar Farm, it was a fantastic taste of what the area has to offer.
And summer hasn’t even officially started.
Posted by Donna on 06/14 at 06:45 PM
Philly Farm and Food Fest 2015
Monday, April 13, 2015
The fourth annual Philly Farm and Food Fest was held yesterday at the Philadelphia Convention Center. With well over one hundred exhibitors, seventeen scheduled classes and forums and a local libations lounge, the Fest is almost too big to see everything in a few hours. We’ve been coming since the first year it was open to the public, and we’ve yet to leave without learning about some new local food we didn’t know about. Some highlights and new discoveries:
Kensington has its very own flower farm - Jig-Bee offers a Flower CSA, with beautiful bouquets delivered to various pickup locations.
I have to say that I’ve been gleefully amazed at the huge popularity and growth of the Fest, but I guess I should have expected it. You can come for the dozens of delicious samples. You can come to do your grocery or garden shopping. You can come to learn a new skill. You can come to drink. Who wouldn’t be happy? Seriously, come next year.
Posted by Donna on 04/13 at 03:28 PM
Announcements as We Wait for Things to Grow
Sunday, April 05, 2015
As we go about prepping our garden plot, starting seeds, and taking a much-needed vacation, I wanted to post just a couple of announcements in case you missed them.
One, the Philly Farm and Food Fest will be next Sunday, April 12th. from 11-4 at the Convention Center. Tickets are $20, $10 extra for admission to the Local Libations Lounge, and $45 for VIP tickets for entrance to the Preview Hour at 10 AM and other goodies. It’s a perfect taste of what’s to come.
Two, even though it is officially Spring, we are still weeks and months from the opening of most farmers’ markets around the city. In the meantime, Farm to City’s Winter Harvest Buying Club is still our primary source of food from November to May. With a long and varied list of products and numerous convenient pick-up locations, it is the easiest way to keep stocked in the cold months. There are still two weeks left in the 2014-15 season, so open your account and get ordering.
In the meantime, keep thinking green and warm. Happy Easter.
Posted by Kevin on 04/05 at 09:12 AM
It’s Not Snowing at the Flower Show
Thursday, March 05, 2015
For those of you who, like me, depend on the PHS Flower Show to remind them that someday soon spring will come, today might be the perfect day to visit. The show was wonderfully uncrowded, and we walked around with cups of PHS Horticulture Cider, brewed locally by Wyndridge Farm, and popcorn. Did I mention there were no crowds? A couple other local highlights:
The W.B. Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences, who run the Henry Got Crops CSA with Weaver’s Way, had an Alice in Wonderland theme to this year’s display that featured a funky fountain.
And our very own elevated park has a name - Rail Park. Construction on the first phase begins this year.
Posted by Donna on 03/05 at 04:26 PM
Philly Farm and Food Fest
Sunday, April 13, 2014
Today was the third annual Philly Farm and Food Fest. Sponsored by Fair Food and the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, it gets bigger and better every year. I’ll post separately on a few particularly exciting finds this year, but in general the Fest brings together over 100 local food purveyors offering their products for sampling and sale as well as free DIY and cooking demonstrations, a “Local Libations Lounge” featuring locally produced spirits and a “Shellfish Salon” with guided tastings of local oysters and clams. It’s impossible to leave hungry or empty handed.
Posted by Donna on 04/13 at 07:59 PM
What to Eat Rather Than What to Wear
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Since the very nature of Diner en Blanc answers the question of what one wears on such occasions, one is free to focus on the far more important question: what does one eat on such occasions?
At the inaugural Diner en Blanc, we opted for the catered dinner by Garces Catering, but now that we are more experienced at what to pack, sit on, eat on, etc., we thought we could risk bringing our own.
The baguette was made with Daisy Organic Flour, a mix of whole wheat and white, which comes from Mark Bittman. On which we smeared, quite inelegantly I have to admit, the lovely Puddle Duck from Hillacres Pride, which I first read about from Madame Fromage. The quiche is an old family recipe from my wife, cut into rounds for additional elegance. The potted trout is from Marc Vetri’s Rustic Italian Food, made with Pennsylvania trout. We purchased the cheese from the always-wonderful Green Aisle Grocery, where we also picked up Market Day canales for dessert and Green Aisle’s own line of tea.
Just as last year, Diner en Blanc 2013 was a very special evening. Once again, the organizers did a fantastic job of using, and celebrating, existing public spaces in the city, reminding us of the overlooked beauty right in front of us.
Posted by Kevin on 08/29 at 05:53 PM
Brewer’s Plate 2013
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
It’s a mark of the vitality of Philly’s local food scene that we have multiple annual events that celebrate local food. After all, it takes a thriving local food culture to make any of these events possible, much less all of them. How many cities across the US would be able to do this?
Chief among these events is Brewer’s Plate, held Sunday night at the Constitution Center. The Fair Food fundraiser pairs dozens of breweries and restaurants in one long beer-and-slider fueled evening. Imagine the spirit of an old-style beef & beer function, with the beef and beer diversified by a factor of thirty, and you will have some idea of the variety offered on Sunday night.
Going in to Brewer’s Plate, I had extremely high expectations for both the beer and the food, and - somehow - even those expectations were exceeded. Normally, you expect to sacrifice quality for an event of this scale, and you accept that since, you know, it’s for a good cause. But what I had to eat and drink rivaled many sit-down meals I’ve had at individual restaurants, and the crowd was more good-natured and enthusiastic than I could have hoped.
Food wise, what stood out? My personal highlights include:
- Pork pate and a beer cracker from Southwark, paired with BPA from Nodding Head
- Victory’s “White Monkey” - Golden Monkey beer aged in Chardonnay barrels
- Brooklyn Brewery’s Sorachi Ace Saison, paired with sliders from Varga Bar and brewed with Champagne yeast.
- Bent Spoon’s Wort Ice Cream - served on the cutest ice cream cone imaginable.
- Aimee Olexy’s cheese-and-beer tasting, in which she proved equally conversant in describing the qualities of beer as cheese, giving us not only a lesson in fantastic local cheese, but in different ways to pair flavors.
- Lancaster Coop is also a buying club with drop offs at many of their CSA locations.
When you attend an event like the Brewer’s Plate, the “danger” (if I can call it that) is that you will take it for granted, that of course the food and beer is local. Local food and drink have come so far so quickly, that it is difficult to remember their humble and relatively recent origins. I was reminded of this as Aimee Olexy discussed the immense effort it took to procure quality local cheeses only a 10 years ago. With credit due to local food advocates such as Fair Food, we can all enjoy these labors of love, and the artisans that create them can command a fair price.
Here’s counting down to the Farm Fest on April 14th.
Posted by Kevin on 03/13 at 07:59 PM
Philadelphia’s Restaurant Week
Sunday, January 20, 2013
It’s Restaurant Week again here in Philadelphia. For the uninitiated, that means a three-course dinner for $35 at some of the city’s best restaurants (and sometimes a $20 three-course lunch, too). Last year, the theme of Restaurant Week was eat local, which was huge news for the localvore scene in the area. This time around I’m not so sure there is a theme, but it’s still possible to find some locally grown foods if you know where to look!
Of course you’re going to find local farmers represented on the menus as FARMiCIA and C19, but where else? 10 Arts, for instance, is serving Pennsylvania brook trout during the dinner service, and Barbuzzo has a few locally-sourced ingredients on the menu for dinner as well, as does Bistro 7, Butcher & Singer, City Tavern, Cuba Libre, Knock, Meritage, Pumpkin, Square 1682, Twenty Manning Grill, and Winthorpe & Valentine. With that many options, it’s still a sure bet that the eat local movement isn’t dead.
Still, we do hope there’ll be another Restaurant Week aimed at locally-sourced ingredients!
Posted by Nicole on 01/20 at 08:59 PM
A Fine Night of Dining for a Fine Cause
Thursday, October 18, 2012
This past Tuesday I had the pleasure of attending a dinner dedicated to bringing professionals together from around the city to discuss the issue of childhood obesity. The dinner was sponsored by the Tyler School of Art Temple Contemporary and The Vetri Foundation. I realize that these two organizations sound like an odd pair for hosting this event, so here’s some context.
When Tyler School of Art moved from Elkins Park to Temple’s main campus in North Philly, they decided that a portion of their exhibits would be dedicated to addressing social issues. They put together a board of professionals from a range of disciplines from across the city, of which I’m a part of, to raise the issues that affect this city. The gallery then supports installations that explore the answers, and this dinner was one of them.
They found a perfect partner in the Vetri Foundation. Many people from the “foodie” side of the food movement have most likely heard of Marc Vetri and his storied resume of restaurants. But for people from the social justice side of the food movement, this organization is doing some very impressive work. Their Eatiquette program is a very innovative take on promoting change in school lunch. Rather than just advocate for healthier options, the foundation sends professional chefs into the school to educate students on how to prepare whole meals. But more importantly, the meals are modeled after family style eating. The tables are round, intimate settings where a “table chef” (usually one of the students) serves out food from one single large plate, thus teaching the students sharing, portion control and table etiquette. I was tasked with this role at my table that night, and was instantly able to make a much more intimate connection with my dinner dates than if we were just placed at the table and served the food from a waiter. We also had the privilege of eating one of the set meals that the students eat: braised white fish, beets with crouton dressing, salad, and green beans. Everything was made from scratch with whole foods.
The Vetri foundation has implemented this program in 5 different schools. After the school goes through the curriculum, the foundation leaves the school with the meal plans and a donation to implement their own program. Sometimes when well meaning organizations leave their program to the schools, they run the risk of losing direction. But as we heard from faculty of the People To People Charter school (where the event was held) their lunchroom went from the normal chaos of any lunchroom to the calm din of a dining room.
The entire program made for some really great conversation at my table from a diverse group of perspectives such as our one diner who was making the lone vegan stance in her family of processed food eaters. Or the perspective of a social worker who digs deeper into the systemic reasons for why children don’t have access to healthy foods rather than why they don’t eat them. It was a great night put on by some really great innovators and I was happy to be a part of it. For more info on the Vetri Foundation check out www.vetrifoundation.org and if you haven’t already, please check out the Tyler School of Art Temple Contemporary located at 2001 N. 13th St. Philadelphia.
Posted by Nic on 10/18 at 04:04 PM
Bike Fresh, Bike Local This Weekend
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) is hosting their annual Bike Fresh, Bike Local this Sunday Sept. 23rd. The ride begins and ends at Victory Brewing Company in Downingtown where participants can enjoy a 25, 50, or 75 mile jaunt through the Chester County countryside. For 5 years, this ride has become an autumn institution in the sustainable farming community. After completing the ride, participants are invited back to Victory Brewing for a meal featuring produce and products from area farms as well as a sampling of Victory Beer.
I could write more glowing things about this ride, but in all honesty supporting a one of the finest sustainable farming organizations in the country, plus a beautiful bike ride, plus free victory beer doesn’t leave much more room for persuasion. I hope to be there so come by and say hi. For tickets and more info visit www.pasa.org/bikefresh.
And if you just can’t that long for a great event in the sustainability world, then please drop by Grid Alive this Thursday Sept. 20th at Trinity Memorial Church on 22nd and Spruce. Doors open at 6, show starts at 7. This month we’ll be talking to Liz Robinson of The Energy Coordinating Agency, Amy Laura Cahn of the Public Interest Law Center, and Scott Kelly and Jen Rezeli of Re-Vision Architecture. Find out more info and get tickets at www.gridphilly.com.
Posted by Nic on 09/18 at 01:25 PM
West Philly Block Party—With Urban Garden Talk!
Tuesday, August 07, 2012
If you’re looking for something interesting to do this weekend, head over to the Memorial Garden at 54th & Wyalusing Streets. On Saturday, August 11 (4-9pm), Neighborhood Foods, Urban Tree Connection, and Scribe are throwing a block party and street film festival.
What’s on the agenda? Kids participating the Philadelphia Youth Network/Neighborhood Foods program to work in Philadelphia urban gardens will talk about their experiences, and Scribe will present several short films about community-led projects. There will also be live music, a spoken word performance, food vendors, and a flea market. Find out more at the Facebook event page.
Posted by Nicole on 08/07 at 10:03 PM
Little Baby’s World Headquarters Grand Opening
Friday, August 03, 2012
It’s appropriate that this month’s frozen treat challenge coincides with tonight’s grand opening of The Little Baby’s Ice Cream World Headquarters on Dauphin and Frankford Ave. in Kensington. Although after having their bicycle carts at music venues and parks across the city and being on the cover of this weeks Philadelphia Weekly, I wondered if they needed any more press. But after dropping by the store last night to take a sneak peak on my walk home from dinner, I was reminded that these guys deserve as much press as possible.
They earn this first and foremost through the ice cream. I remember sitting in a friends kitchen over a year ago and meeting company co-founder Pete Avengine and having my taste buds blown as we ate Earl Gray Sarachi out of chinese food containers. Since then their flavors have evolved into flavors such as blueberry ginger, sour cherry, birch beer vanilla, and my personal favorite coffee toffee, just to name a few. These are pretty adventurous flavors and are probably pretty hard to make. But none of the flavors have even a hint of artificial blandness. If anything, the chunks of ginger and skins of the blue berry can be accused of being too overpowering, but I personally think they have a perfect balance.
They can create these flavors because they predominantly use fruit from local farmers and I personally know that they searched far and wide for the regions best milk to craft the best cream consistency possible. Working with farmers both large and small, I know how hard it can be to source these products locally and I think I speak for the sustainable farming community when I say thanks to a company who holds that commitment.
And the last accolade I can give this company is from my entrepreneurial admiration. Being that I too am in the process of starting a small business in Philly (The Head & The Hand Press, check out our kickstarter) I know how tough it can be trying to be profitable while trying to run a socially responsible business. But everything I have seen from these guys has been professional through and through, from the way the structure their business to the way they deliver their product, to the way they treat their employees.
So excuse me if I sound like too much of a cheerleader for these guys. But I really love what they are doing, and being a bit of an ice cream junkie myself, I’m pretty darn happy that this ice cream parlor is three blocks from my house. So come on down to Frankford Ave. tonight for the grand opening. Aside from it being First Friday, Little Baby’s will be providing beer, music, ice cream and I think there was even talk of a barber. What he’ll be doing, I don’t know. But I do know that there will be some very tasty treats worthy of this month’s frozen treat challenge.
Posted by Nic on 08/03 at 12:04 PM